Context is King?

Monday, October 4, 2010 by Frank Radice

While moderating a panel on “New Media” (I hate that phrase btw) at theWilliamsburg Film Festival (Willifest) earlier this month, one of the panelists, Larry Banks, Chairman of Film/Media Arts Department at Long Island University, said “Context, not content, is king.”



Context? Hasn’t content always been king? What happened?

Is Dr. Banks the only person to identify this shift? No, he’s not. Let’s take a look at what some notable people in the industry are saying about content versus context:

    • In a recent NY Post article (the real paper of record in this town), Scott Kessler, Tech Analyst for Standard & Poor’s said about the music industry, “Companies are focusing more on user experience and distribution rather than content itself, and that is an overarching theme, it’s probably not something compelling for content providers.” Ya think?
    • Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, guest writer for “TechCrunch” said, “The context—Facebook, Twitter, email—in which people are introduced to media and consume it is becoming more important than the content itself.” As this chart shows, 81% of discovered video content comes from the blogsthat people arguably already visit.



how videos are found online



    • “Context makes content relevant,” says Jeff Korhan of the blog NEW MEDIA & SMALL BUSINESS MARKETING. “If I give you information that is valuable, you will appreciate it, but possibly never use it. If I help you appreciate the value of that information by showing you how it works for me or someone like you, then the context makes it invaluable.”

Alrighty then! These folks have a definite point of view. It’s about relevance, placement and a set of circumstances that surrounds the content. But I have a different take on it.

On TV context can help spell success. News, sports and specials have built in context. Comedy can be topical and relevant (From “Cosby” and “Seinfeld” in the 80’s and 90’s, to the more recent “Modern Family.”). Dramas can show real “ripped from the headlines” relevance with programs like “Law & Order.”

In advertising, both traditional and non-traditional, context is very important. That’s what targeting is all about.

Film is experience-oriented, but context is always at play in any given compelling scene. But after a movie plays out in a theater, viewing trends show that on line viewing is often the place for the following runs. Now there is a second layer of context…the place you go to when you want another experience and the way-in is more-and-more, an App. That is a condition that is relevant to the event.

Whether you’re listening to talk radio in your car, reading a billboard in Times Square, looking at a blog that takes you to a piece of video, watching the “Today” show in the morning or “Letterman” at night, you are doing so in “context,”

But at the end of the day (I hate that phrase too), there is no reason to engage with any content regardless of the context if the storytelling isn’t strong.

So what does that say?

Maybe content, not context, is king!